Spring Lake Golf Club’s origins revolve around the work of three primary architects. The first was from Willie Norton, a relative unknown who served as the head professional after emigrating from Prestwick. He didn’t have ideal circumstances, pressured to cram nine holes on just 18 acres.
The course decided to add another 100 acres prior to expanding to 18 holes, handing the design reins over to George Thomas, for whom the club was only the third design of his legendary career. His design, however, would be renovated just six years later by another iconic architect — A.W. Tillinghast — when Spring Lake decided that the current 6,000-yard yardage wasn’t satisfactory for modern competitive golf.
Tillie took the route to 6,400 yards, which — as of 1918 — was one of the longest courses in the country. An irony from that event was that Tillinghast actually shortened the course’s most famous hole; although the latter Philadelphia architect was more known for creating par five monsters than most, Thomas set the standard at Spring Lake by creating a 600-yard third hole during 1911. Tillinghast brought it back to 525 yards. To this day, the hole still plays more than 50 yards shorter than as Thomas had intended.
Being located in Monmouth County can prove to be a tough locale to get attention when the golf aisle is loaded with a number of worthy courses. Spring Lake bears the fingerprints of George Thomas before he headed west and all the rightful fanfare for his efforts at LACC, Riviera and Bel-Air.
Spring Lake is not at that caliber; however, the course layout was updated not long after its opening by A.W. Tillinghast.
Amazingly, although the layout is nearby to the Jersey Shore and features relatively flat land the routing and overall bunker work is done quite well. These elements provide the character that makes Spring Lake a fun layout to play. Some may find the terminology of "a good member's course" to be a pejorative but that's far from the case at Spring Lake.
Of special interest is the turning points found on a few of the holes -- mainly on the front side. The short par-4 5th and 7th are good examples. There's enough movement and angles provided so that sound placements win the day -- not brawn alone. Those who simply look at the total length of the course may find that such ignorant tunnel vision will have one's golf pockets picked because of that lack of respect.
The key thing is Spring Lake wisely made sure its core qualities would not be eradicated. Sad to say, but far too many clubs sought improvements to be "championship courses" and the resulting hodge-podge results simply caused more issues needing an expensive overhaul down the pike.
What a thrill to play such attention-grabbing mid-length par-4s to conclude the round. The penultimate hole is blessed with a majestic fairway bunker that protects the left side and the tapering in of the fairway is quite devilish in taming the wild impulses of those who fail to pay heed. The concluding hole rounds out the day nicely -- another mid-length par-4 where placement on the left side is a must for the optimum approach angle over a fronting creek.
M. James Ward
Spring Lake is a very welcoming club and is a joy to play. It's the type of course you could see yourself playing every day. The conditioning is excellent and there is a good variety of holes. The rough isn't penal so you can stray some and find it and continue on. It is well worth a visit if you get an invite. The green contours are easily read and there are some good slopes on a few greens.